Week 40, 2012: Coming home
I FLEW TO MINDANAO for the weekend to visit my aunt's wake. I stayed in Polomolok for a little more than 24 hours. I took the first flight to Manila on Sunday morning. I didn't even get to see my house.
I felt both excitement and dread on that plane ride to GenSan. True, after months of staying up late in the hospital, I wanted to give myself a mini-vacation — and what could be a better place to do that than at home? But that emergency trip entailed that I had to face the fact of Tita Ging's death head on, something I felt I wasn't quite prepared to do because, really, how can one prepare for something like that?
I resolved not to shed tears when everyone was around, choosing instead to grieve in private. Our relatives from the Catedral side are crybabies to begin with (Tita Ging not being an exemption, when she was still alive), and I didn't want to join in.
I met my father the morning I had arrived, his voice quivering and his eyes red. I had missed him. We picked a quiet spot at the small funeral home. He explained to me how death is inevitable — it's not a question of whether we'll die, it's a question of when and how, because we all will eventually. He talked about how Tita Ging loved the Lord, despite the many trials she and the late Tito Jun had endured. He told me that he looked at the photo albums we had at home, and he saw how close we — my brothers and I — were to her.
My mother arrived in the afternoon. She said, "Tita Ging is finally home with the Lord, worshiping Him, and enjoying His presence." I had never seen Nanay cry during funerals, not even during her father's death in 1992. I think I got that from her. She came with two of her best friends, a florist from Koronadal, and lots and lots of flower cuttings picked from Tupi.
That evening I was asked to give a short eulogy after the mini-service, where we sang timeless hymns about believers finally seeing their Master, or about the Lord's comforts during fiery ordeals. I was incoherent at best; I was merely voicing out my thoughts. I told the crowd — many of them family members I hadn't seen in a while, as we all as Tita Ging's friends from church, old neighbors, and classmates from high school — to remember her for who she was: a kind, gentle, friendly soul. How we loved her. My aunts from the Catedral side were dabbing their eyes as I carried on with my talk.
I also told them that Tita Ging's death was to be an opportunity for self-evaluation: do we know where we're headed when we die? In whatever short time I had, I was able to share the gospel. That had already made my short trip worthwhile.
Hours later I hugged my cousin Matt, kissed my family goodbye, and before I knew it, I was back in Manila.
Whenever I pass by any Jollibee store, I still remember Tita Ging and that Jolly hotdog she bought me using the last of her money that one fateful day.